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Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction: Episode #46: The Opening Scene

Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction: Episode #46: The Opening Scene

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/46-opening-scene

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

SHOW NOTES:

Your opening scene carries a heavy load. It must hook the reader, introduce the story question—and often the protagonist/antagonist, reveal the setting/story world, evoke emotion in the reader, and reveal the voice and tone of the story. That’s a lot of work, and pressure on the writer.

Why is the opening scene so important?

1—It must do all or most of the above

2—It’s all most people will ever read—-unless it’s compelling

3—It’s what grabs the attention of agents and editors

4—It’s you first—and only—chance to make a good impression

Things you must do in the first few pages:

Hook the reader

Introduce an interesting character or situation

Ask the story question

Set the tone and voice

Introduce the story world

Hints at what’s to come

Make the reader care, or at least curious

A Few Openings:

Red Dragon–Thomas Harris

Will Graham sat Crawford down at a picnic table between the house and the ocean and gave him a glass of iced tea.

Jack Crawford looked at the pleasant old house, salt-silvered wood in the clear light. “I should have caught you in Marathon when you got off work,” he said. “You don’t want to talk about it here.”

“I don’t want to talk about anywhere, Jack. You’ve got to talk about it, so let’s have it. Just don’t get out any pictures. If you brought pictures, leave them in the briefcase — Molly and Willy will be back soon.”

“How much do you know?”

“What was in the Miami Herald and the Times,” Graham said. “Two families killed in their houses a month apart. Birmingham and Atlanta. The circumstances were similar.”

“Not similar. The same.”

“How many confessions so far?”

“Eighty-six when I called this afternoon,” Crawford said. “Cranks. None of them knew details. He smashes the mirrors and uses the pieces. None of them knew that.”

The Secret History—Donna Tartt

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He’d been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history – state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.

The Concrete Blonde—Michael Connelly

The house in Silverlake was dark, its windows as empty as a dead man’s eyes. It was an old California Craftsman with a full front porch and two dormer windows set on the long slope of the roof. But no light shone behind the glass, not even from above the doorway. Instead, the house cast a foreboding darkness about it that not even the glow from the streetlight could penetrate. A man could be standing there on the porch and Bosch knew he probably wouldn’t be able to see him.

“You sure this is it?” he asked her.

“Not the house,” she said. “Behind it. The garage. Pull up so you can see down the drive.”

Bosch tapped the gas pedal and the Caprice moved forward and crossed the entrance to the driveway.

“There,” she said.

Bosch stopped the car. There was a garage behind the house with an apartment above it. Wooden staircase up the side, light over the door. Two windows, lights on inside.

“Okay,” Bosch said.

They stared at the garage for several moments. Bosch didn’t know what he expected to see. Maybe nothing. The whore’s perfume was filling the car and he rolled his window down. He didn’t know whether to trust her claim or not. The one thing he knew he couldn’t do was call for backup. He hadn’t brought a rover with him and the car was not equipped with a phone.

“What are you going to – – there he goes!” she said urgently.

Bosch had seen it, the shadow of a figure crossing behind the smaller window. The bathroom, he guessed.

“He’s in the bathroom,” she said. “That’s where I saw all the stuff.”

Bosch looked away from the window and at her.

“What stuff?”

“I, uh, checked the cabinet. You know, when I was in there. Just looking to see what he had. A girl has to be careful. And I saw all the stuff. Makeup shit. You know, mascara, lipsticks, compacts and stuff. That’s how I figured it was him. He used all that stuff to paint ‘em when he was done, you know, killing them.”

Run To Ground–D. P. Lyle

“I can still smell him.” Martha Foster inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.

Tim stood just inside the doorway and looked down at his wife. She sat on the edge of their son’s bed, eyes moist, chin trembling, as were the fingers that clutched the navy-blue Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt to her chest. It had been Steven’s favorite. He had slept in it every night the first month, until Martha finally pried it away long enough to run it through the wash.

Behind her, a dozen photos of Steven lay scattered across the blue comforter. A proud Steven in his first baseball uniform. A seven-year-old Steven, grinning, upper left front tooth missing, soft freckles over his nose, buzz-cut hair, a blue swimming ribbon dangling around his neck. A playful Steven, sitting next to Martha at the backyard picnic table, face screwed into a goofy expression, smoke from the Weber BBQ rising behind them. Tim remembered the day he snapped the picture. Labor Day weekend. Just six months before that day. He squeezed back his own tears and swallowed hard.

Martha shifted her weight and twisted toward the photos. She laid the sweatshirt aside and reached out, lightly touching an image of Steven’s face. The trembling of her delicate fingers increased. She said nothing for a moment and then, “I’m taking these.”

Tim walked to where she sat and pulled her to him, her cheek nestling against his chest, her tears soaking through his tee shirt. He kissed the top of her head. 

“He’s gone,” Martha said. “Everything’s gone. Or will be.”

@copyrighted

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

DEEP SIX, Jake Longly #1, A Kindle Daily Deal Today Only

DEEP SIX, Jake Longly #1, is a Kindle Daily Deal July 3rd 

Only $1.99

Ex-professional baseball player Jake Longly adamantly refuses to work for Ray, his PI father, preferring to chase bikinis along the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. But Ray could be persuasive so Jake finds himself staking-out a suspected adulteress who gets murdered right under Jake’s nose. Aided by new girlfriend Nicole Jamison, Jake’s homicide investigation quickly runs afoul of Ukrainian mobster Victor Borkov. Was Borkov behind the murder? If so, why? As the intrepid couple nose around, more murders pile up, and ultimately they must somehow escape being deep-sixed from Borkov’s massive yacht.

We all know Lyle’s erudition and expertise – but who knew he was this funny?–Lee Child, NY Times Best Selling Author

Corruption, vendettas, cartel killers, oh my!  Deep Six puts the fun back into late night reading with this fast-paced romp through murder and mayhem.  Prepare to flip the pages.–Lisa Gardner, NY Times Best-selling Author

Grab a copy and hang out with Jake, Nicole, Ray, and of course Pancake.

More Details: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/deep-six/

PURCHASE: https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Six-Jake-Longly-Book-ebook/dp/B01BGHUTBK/

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode #45: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction: Episode #45: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/criminal-mischief-episode-45-carbon-monoxide-poisoning

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

SHOW NOTES:http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief-notes/45-carbon-monoxide.html

From FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES:

That Sneaky Carbon Monoxide 

Carbon monoxide is sneaky and deadly. When authorities find a suicide victim in her garage, sitting in a car with the engine running, they can usually chalk up that death to carbon monoxide. 

Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas that is completely undetectable by humans. It results from the incomplete combustion of carbon‐containing fuels like wood, coal, and gas. Faulty stoves, heaters, and fireplaces can fill the air with CO. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills more people trapped in fires than the fire itself does. 

CO is particularly treacherous because it binds to hemoglobin, producing carboxyhemoglobin in your blood. Because carboxyhemoglobin contains no usable oxygen, cells containing this molecule can’t supply oxygen to the tissues of the body. Thus, the body’s cells become starved for oxygen. Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin 300 times more readily than oxygen does and thus takes oxygen’s place in the body. Your body can get very high blood levels of CO by breathing air that contains only small amounts of it. For example, breathing air that contains a carbon monoxide level as low as 0.2 percent can lead to blood CO saturations greater than 60 percent after only 30 to 45 minutes. 

Most people believe that CO is toxic only in an enclosed area, but that’s just not true. People have died while working on their cars in the open air; typically, someone finds the victim lying near the car’s exhaust. Similarly, swimmers and water skiers who loiter near the dive platform on the back of an idling powerboat also run the risk of CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide’s powerful attraction to hemoglobin explains how people can succumb to CO poisoning in open areas. 

The signs and symptoms of CO toxicity correlate with its concentration in the blood:

1–The normal level of CO in the blood is 1 to 3 percent, but it can be as high as 7 to 10 percent in smokers.

2–At levels of 10 to 20 percent, you experience headaches and a poor ability to concentrate on complex tasks.

3–Between 30 and 40 percent, headaches become severe and throbbing, and nausea, vomiting, faintness, and lethargy appear. Pulse and breathing rate increase noticeably.

4–Between 40 and 60 percent, the victim becomes confused, disoriented, weak, and displays extremely poor coordination.

5–Above 60 percent, coma and death arrive.
In the elderly and those individuals with heart or lung disease, levels as low as 20 percent can be lethal. Victims of car exhaust suicide or those who die from fire in an enclosed room may reach CO levels as high as 90 percent.

Autopsy findings in CO poisoning depend, in part, on carboxyhemoglobin’s bright red color. When the ME performs an autopsy on a victim of CO poisoning, the blood and internal organs often appear bright red, and this offers a clue to the possible cause of death. 

Individuals who survive CO intoxication can suffer serious health problems. Carbon monoxide mostly damages the brain because it’s the organ most sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Symptoms and signs of significant brain insult may begin immediately or be delayed for several days or weeks. The most common after‐effects include chronic headaches, memory loss, blindness, confusion, disorientation, poor coordination, and hallucinations. The ME may be asked to evaluate a surviving victim if authorities suspect that the exposure was the result of a criminal act or they want documentation for a civil lawsuit.

Newser Story: https://www.newser.com/story/307939/students-drowning-due-in-part-to-carbon-monoxide.html

CO Deaths on Lake Erie: https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2021/06/two-men-boy-died-from-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-in-boating-incident-on-lake-erie-cuyahoga-county-medical-examiner-rules.html

CO Deaths From car Used as Heat Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/weather/two-dead-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-after-using-car-heat-texas-n1257972

PubMed: CO Poisoning Deaths is US, 1999-2012: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26032660/

CDC: CP Poisoning: https://www.cdc.gov/dotw/carbonmonoxide/index.html

Famous People Who Died of CO Poisoning: https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-who-died-of-carbon-monoxide-poisoning/reference

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Jake Longly News and Deals

DEEP SIX,
Jake Longly #1
Kindle Daily Deal 5-18-21 only
https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Six-Jake-Longly-Book-ebook/dp/B01BGHUTBK/
A-LIST
Jake Longly#2
Kindle Daily Deal 5-28-21 only
https://www.amazon.com/List-Jake-Longly-Book-ebook/dp/B076N2ZC95/
RIGGED
Jake Longly #4
Coming in Paperback 5-25-21
https://www.amazon.com/Rigged-Jake-Longly-D-Lyle/dp/1608094383/
THE OC
Jake Longly #5
Coming October, 2021 
Available for Pre—order:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08SR7QTVH


 
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Posted by on May 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode #44: Setting As Character

Criminal Mischief: Episode #44: Setting As Character

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/episode-44-setting-as-character

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

SHOW NOTES: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief-notes/44-setting-as-character.html

Can a story be set just anywhere? Some can, but most rely on the location and time period to underpin and amplify the story. In the best stories, setting becomes an essential character. Can you imagine James Lee Burke’s iconic Dave Robicheaux being anywhere but Louisiana? What about Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder or Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch? Could they exist anywhere other than Amish country or Los Angeles, respectively? Jaws had to be on an island, The Godfather in New York, The Shining in an isolated mountain hotel, and Star Wars the far reaches of space. 

Setting has 2 parts: Where and When

Setting establishes MOOD

Setting is not simply a description of where the scene is taking place. It is more the “feel” of the location. Don’t spew out a bunch of minute details. Pick the two or three “telling details” that reveal the feel and mood of the place. Always leave room for the readers imagination.

Description is visual. That’s a given. Add depth by always including the other senses. What are the sounds, smells, and tactile characteristics of the locale? If your scene takes place at Café du Monde in New Orleans, incorporate the smell of beignets and chicory coffee, the sounds of flatware against plates, the clomping of the horse hooves of the passing carriages. If in a bar, maybe the smell of beer and cigar smoke, the clacking of pool balls, and the stickiness of spilt beer on the bar would work. If at a kennel, the yapping of dogs and the odor of excrement might be appropriate. If in a library, perhaps the muffled whispers of the patrons and the coarseness and musty aroma of the pages in an old book would be important to setting the desired mood.

The Telling Detail: the one or two things that set the scene. Might be visual or some other sense. Something that lets the reader get a feel for the setting and then fill in the details from his own mind. What detail or group of details makes the reader “see” all the other details?

SETTING CONSIDERATIONS:

Is your setting real or fictional? Urban or rural? Small or large?

Could your story be set anywhere else? Would it be a better story if it were?

What is unique about your setting?

What is your Protagonist’s and/or antagonist’s relationship to the setting? Has your character been there before, have a familiarity with the location, or is he a stranger in a strange land?

Is your setting a “story character”?

Description is visual so sight is a given, but which other senses can you bring to your setting? What are the sounds, smells, and tactile characteristics of the locale?

Setting is not simply a description of where the scene is taking place. It is more the “feel” of the location. Don’t spew out a bunch of minute details. Pick the two or three that sets the feel and mood of the place. Always leave room for the readers imagination.

What setting expresses your stories worldview and theme best?

Research setting by whatever means you can. If you live in the area or know it well, then much of the needed info is already in your head. If not, go there if you can but often that isn’t possible. Use the various map programs. Go to webpages that deal with the area and check out the history, geography, populace, businesses, and don’t forget the real estate sites that show homes and buildings in that area.

Try This: Walk into ten places you’ve never been before. Write down the first five things that make an impression on you. Now write a scene that takes place in each of these location.

Setting examples:

Black Cherry Blues–James Lee Burke

Her hair is curly and gold on the pillow, her skin white in the heat lightning that trembles beyond the pecan trees outside the bedroom window. The night is hot and breathless, the clouds painted like horsetails against the sky; a peal of thunder rumbles on the Gulf like an apple rolling around in the bottom a wooden barrel, and the first raindrops ping against the window fan. She sleeps on her side, and the sheet molds her thigh, the curve of her hip, her breast. In the flicker of the heat lightning the sun freckles on her bare shoulder look like brown flaws in sculpted marble.

In Cold Blood – – Truman Capote

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of Western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with it’s hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, and a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

The Long Goodbye–Raymond Chandler

When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes, people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn’t have one. I didn’t care. I finished the drink and went to bed.

The Concrete Blonde—Michael Connelly

The house in Silverlake was dark, its windows as empty as a dead man’s eyes. It was an old California Craftsman with a full front porch and two dormer windows set on the long slope of the roof. But no light shone behind the glass, not even from above the doorway. Instead, the house cast a foreboding darkness about it that not even the glow from the streetlight could penetrate. A man could be standing there on the porch and Bosch knew he probably wouldn’t be able to see him.

A-List—-DP Lyle

Cafe du Monde. No place like it. I never visited the Big Easy without at least one trip for their beignets and chicory coffee. The aroma of each hung thick beneath the green awning that covered the patio, as did the din of conversation. It was just after eight and the place was packed, as usual, but Nicole and I managed to snag a table along the railing. Out on the sidewalk a street performer, a guy dressed like a clown, face paint and all, squeaked together balloon animals that he handed to one excited kid after another. Parents dropped bills into the small aluminum bucket near his feet. Free enterprise, baby.

Also From A-List—DP Lyle

Bourbon Street actually has three personalities, depending on the time of day. The one most folks equate with it is nighttime when it becomes one big street party. Stretching from Canal Street to Jackson Square, the neon blazes, the alcohol flows, and some of the best music in the world spills out of bar after bar. Not to mention the strip clubs. Ones that caters to any and all persuasions. Short of murder, few things are off limits. Of course, the Quarter sees more than its share of homicides, too. 

During the day, Bourbon is an altogether different experience. For sure, you don’t want to see it around sunrise. It smells of garbage and stale alcohol, the detritus of the previous night. Like a decaying corpse. Refuse crews and street cleaners do yeoman’s work to prep it for a new onslaught. 

But by noon, the trash is hauled away, the pavement dries from the hosing it has received, and the stench magically evaporates. People appear, street performers take up their stations, and music begins to crank up. 

Circle of life in the Big Easy.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

THE OC, Jake Longly #5 Coming October 2021

Jake Longly is hoping for a few weeks of fun with Nicole in the warm Orange County, CA sun—The OC, baby—before hopping up to LA for the filming of Nicole’s sure-to-be-a-hit screenplay. But on arrival they discover that Nicole’s friend Megan Weatherly, a small-market local TV reporter, has picked up an anonymous stalker. Megan thinks he’s simply an infatuated fan but Jake and Nicole, as as well Megan’s new intern Abby, also a past stalking victim, think he’s potentially dangerous. As the shadowy man escalates his harassment, becomes more threatening, and circles closer and closer to Megan’s world, Ray and Pancake arrive. Are Ray’s past military black ops experience and Pancake’s computer skills enough to expose the predator in time? 

The stalker is no fool and likely has past experience. He makes no mistakes and manages to cover his trail completely. So, how do you identify and locate the untraceable? How do you protect Megan from a potentially lethal phantom? 

Suddenly the sunshine and safety of The OC seem more facade than reality. Jake and crew must punch through that facade and dig into the dark world of celebrity stalking. The clock is ticking.

Pre-Order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08SR7QTVH

Check Out the other Jake Longly Books, as well as my other series, here: http://www.dplylemd.com/books.html

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

SKIN IN THE GAME a BookBub Free Deal 11-23 through 11-27

SKIN IN THE GAME is a BookBub Deal from 11-23 through 11-27.

It’s FREE. Check it out

Who are Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy?

Raised as siblings by an itinerant “gypsy” family, knife expert Bobby Cain, trained by the US military in the lethal art of covert eliminations, and Harper McCoy, nurtured by the US Navy and the CIA to run black ops and wage psychological warfare, are now civilians. Of a sort. Employing the skills learned from the “family” and their training, they now fix the unfixable. Case in point: Retired General William Kessler hires the duo to track down his missing granddaughter, a Vanderbilt University co-ed. Their search leads them to a small, bucolic, lake-side town in central Tennessee and into a world of prostitution, human trafficking, and serial murder. The question then becomes: Will their considerable skills be enough for Cain and Harper to save the young woman, and themselves, from a sociopath with “home field” advantage, a hunter’s skills, and his own deeply disturbing agenda?

Buy It: https://www.amazon.com/Skin-Game-Cain-Harper-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07VKQKQM8

Details/Reviews: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/skin-in-the-game.html

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Familial DNA Solves a 35-year-old Case

Familial DNA Solves a 35-year-old Case

On Thanksgiving Day in 1984, 14 YO Wendy Jerome left a friend’s house and disappeared. For a few hours then her body was found in a school alcove. She had been raped and beaten to death. For 35 years, no one was charged with the crime. Until Familial DNA helped investigators focus on Timothy Williams. His DNA was collected and proved a match for the crime scene DNA obtained from Wendy’s corpse.

Familial DNA testing looks for matches that are “close” but not necessarily “exact.” Just close enough to indicate that the crime scene DNA tested came from someone closely related to the unknown perpetrator. This helps narrow the suspect list. DNA is then collected from suspects and standard DNA testing looks for a match. 

Familial DNA has been involved in many high-profile cases including The Grim Sleeper and the Golden State Killer.

Wendy Jerome Murder

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2020/09/11/familial-dna-leads-arrest-35-year-old-murder-rochester-teen/3460554001/

The Grim Sleeper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grim_Sleeper

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/grim-sleeper-serial-killer-everything-you-need-to-know-252246/


The Golden State Killer:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_James_DeAngelo

https://abcnews.go.com/US/inside-timeline-crimes-golden-state-killer/story?id=54744307

https://www.grunge.com/245788/how-the-golden-state-killer-was-finally-caught/

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode 40: Nasty Deadly Poisons

 

Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction: Episode #40:Nasty Deadly Poisons

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/episode-40-nasty-deadly-poisons

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

SHOW NOTES:

Crime writers love poisons. Even those who write the more cozy variety. I mean, arsenic and old lace? Arsenic, the queen of poisons, is often used as are the opioids and amphetamines and a few others. But maybe you want to explore more uncommon, and deadly, options for your story. Some are easy to come by, others a bit more difficult but all have been used and just might add to your story.

Cyanide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanide_poisoning

Strychnine: https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/strychnine/basics/facts.asp

Botulinum:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botulinum_toxin

Nicotine:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine_poisoning

Ricin:https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/facts.asp

Georgi Markov: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov

Sarin(and VX): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin

Polonium: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polonium

Alexander Litvinenko: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Litvinenko

Brodifacoum:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brodifacoum

Tetradotoxin (TTX):https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrodotoxin

Batrachotoxin (BTX): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batrachotoxin

Amatoxin:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amatoxin

Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna

Oleander:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerium

 

7 Of The World’s Deadliest Plants: https://www.britannica.com/list/7-of-the-worlds-deadliest-plants

10 Deadliest Poisons Known To Man: https://www.thoughtco.com/deadliest-poisons-known-to-man-4058116

Top 10 Deadliest Poisons in the World: https://www.valuewalk.com/2018/12/top-10-deadliest-poisons-world/

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode #33: Toxicology Part 2

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/episode-33-toxicology-part-2

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

SHOW NOTES:

From HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS

TOXICOLOGICAL TESTING PROCEDURES 

The biggest problem facing the toxicologist is that there are literally thousands of drugs and chemicals that are harmful, addictive, or lethal if ingested, injected, or inhaled. Some even absorb directly through the skin. Toxicological testing is time-consuming and expensive, and few, if any, labs can afford to perform such testing on every case. For this reason, the testing must be as focused as possible. 

An understanding of the circumstances surrounding the death is important since clues at the scene often point toward a particular drug. For example, a young girl found on her bed at home with an empty pill bottle at her side would lead to one avenue of testing while a long-term addict found in an alley with fresh needle marks would follow another path. The more clues as to the likely toxin that the circumstances of the death can supply, the narrower the field of possibilities the toxicologist must consider. 

THE TWO-TIERED SYSTEM 

When testing for drugs or poisons, the toxicologist typically follows a two-tiered approach. Initial tests, called presumptive tests, are for screening purposes and are typically easier and cheaper to perform. When negative, they indicate that the drug or class of drugs in question is not present and further testing is unnecessary. When positive, they indicate that a particular substance possibly is present. By using these screening tests the number of possibilities can be greatly reduced and the toxicologist can move on to the second phase, which utilizes more focused confirmatory testing. These tests are more expensive and time-consuming but are designed to establish the identity of the exact drug present. This two-tiered approach saves considerable time and money. 

This same approach is used whether the toxicologist is asked to analyze blood, urine, and other materials obtained from a person (living or deceased) or to test a batch of seized material believed to be illicit drugs. 

Let’s say a corpse is found in an alleyway known for methamphetamine sales and use. If blood samples obtained at autopsy show a positive presumptive test for amphetamines, further confirmatory testing to identify the exact amphetamine present is indicated. If the test is negative, no further testing for amphetamines is done and the toxicologist will search for other classes of drugs. 

To be doubly certain, the toxicologist prefers to find the drug or poison in at least two separate locations. Finding the toxin in the blood and the liver tissue is more reassuring than finding it in either one alone. 

Or let’s say that the toxicologist is asked to test a seized substance and doing so shows a positive presumptive test for cocaine. Further confirmatory testing would then be indicated. If the screening test is negative, the substance may be analyzed for other drugs, but cocaine has been ruled out. 

In most labs, testing for controlled and illegal drugs consumes 75 percent of the lab’s time and resources. The areas most often tested in this type of examination are blood and urine. After one of the presumptive tests shows that a particular drug or class of drugs is likely present, confirmatory testing with the combination of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or infrared spectroscopy are used to accurately identify which substance is present. See the appendix for details on these procedures. 

Presumptive Tests 

Presumptive testing comes in many varieties. Common toxicological screening tests are color tests, immunoassays, thin layer chromatography, and ultraviolet spectroscopy. 

Color Tests 

Tests in which a reagent (any active chemical solution) is added to blood, urine, or tissue extractions, and if the particular chemical tested for is present, a color change reaction will occur. The color change results from a chemical reaction between the drug and the reagent, which produces a new compound that imparts a specific color to the mixture. These tests are cheap, easy, and quick, and can determine if a specific chemical or class of chemicals are present in the material tested. If it does not indicate that the toxin is present, further testing is not necessary.

There are a wide variety of color tests that reveal the presence of many types of drugs. Some of the most common are: 

TRINDER’S TEST: This reagent, containing ferric nitrate and mercuric chloride, turns violet in the presence of salicylates (aspirin and similar compounds). 

MARQUIS TEST: This reagent contains formaldehyde and sulfuric acid and turns purple in the presence of morphine, heroin, and most opiates, and brownish orange if mixed with amphetamines or methamphetamines. 

VAN URK TEST: This is a test for LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs. The reagent is a mixture of dimethylaminobenzaldehyde, hydrochloric acid (HCl), and ethanol. It turns purple to indicate a positive reaction. 

DILLIE-KOPPANYI TEST: In this test, the sample is treated with cobalt acetate in methanol and then with isopropylamine in methanol. It turns violet-blue if barbiturates are present. 

DUQUENOIS-LEVINE TEST: This three-step test determines if marijuana or other cannabinoids are present. The sample is treated with a mixture of vanillin and acetaldehyde in ethanol, then with HCl, and finally with chloroform. A deep purple color is a positive result. 

SCOTT TEST: This is also a three-step test that uses a mixture of cobalt thiocyanate and glycerine, followed by HCl, and then chloroform. Cocaine turns blue after the thiocyanate is added, changes to pink with the HCl, and then blue once again when chloroform is added. 

Other Screening Tests 

IMMUNOASSAY: Immunoassays, which measure the concentration of a drug in a liquid (see the appendix), are easy, very sensitive, and useful for rapidly screening urine samples for certain drugs. However, the manufactured antibodies can also react with compounds that are very similar to the sought-after drug, a lack of specificity that makes this a presumptive test rather than a confirmatory one. 

THIN LAYER CHROMATOGRAPHY (TLC): TLC (see the appendix) not only tentatively identifies many chemicals, but is also useful for separating the components of a sample. Once TLC has tentatively identified a substance, its identity is confirmed with mass spectrometry. 

GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY (GC): As with TLC, GC’s (see the appendix) primary use is in making a presumptive identification and separating various compounds from one another. A positive result is confirmed by using mass spectrometry. 

ULTRAVIOLET (UV) SPECTROSCOPY: This test takes advantage of the fact that different chemicals absorb UV light in varying amounts (see the appendix). Since it can’t identify the exact compound, it is only useful for screening

. 

A Typical Screening Protocol 

Each lab has its own protocol for drug screening. What tests are used and in what order they are performed depends on the available staff and equipment, budgetary restrictions, and the bias of the toxicologist in charge. But most labs have certain standard screens they employ when first confronted with an unknown sample. These basic screens might include:

ALCOHOL SCREEN: GC is used to isolate and identify the various alcohols and related compounds such as acetone. 

ACID SCREEN: Immunoassay of urine samples is used to detect acidic compounds such as barbiturates and aspirin. 

ALKALI SCREEN: GC screens for substances that dissolve in alkaline solutions. These substances include many tranquilizers, synthetic narcotics, and antidepressants. 

NARCOTIC SCREEN: Urine immunoassay reveals opiates, cocaine, and methadone. 

By using these general screening procedures, the toxicologist can quickly exclude many commonly encountered drugs and narrow his area of search for those that are present. Based on these results, further screening and confirmatory tests are used to ultimately identify any unknown substance. 

Confirmatory Tests 

A good confirmatory test must possess sensitivity and specificity in that it must recognize the chemical in question (sensitivity) and be able to identify it to the exclusion of all others (specificity). This means that once a chemical has undergone a screening test and a presumptive identity has been established, a confirmatory test will accurately determine the true identity of the unknown substance. 

The most important confirmatory test used by the toxicologist is mass spectrometry (MS) (see the appendix). In MS, the sample is bombarded with electrons, which fragment the chemical into ionic fractions. This fragmentation pattern is called a mass spectrum. It is different for each element and compound. This means that it gives a chemical fingerprint of the chemical being tested and can identify virtually any compound. When the mass spectrum of an unknown substance is compared to known reference standards, the identity of the unknown sample comes to light. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains a database of the mass spectra of known chemicals. 

In the forensic toxicology laboratory, MS is usually employed in combination with gas chromatography (GC). This combination is called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). In GC/MS, gas chromatography is used to separate the test sample into components and MS is employed to identify each component. The GC/MS is as close to being foolproof as any technique available. 

Though used less often than MS, infrared spectroscopy (IR) can also determine the chemical fingerprint of the tested substance (see the appendix). Instead of electrons, the substance is exposed to infrared light. When any light strikes an object or substance, it is transmitted (passed through), absorbed, or reflected. When exposed to infrared light, each compound transmits and absorbs the light in its own unique pattern. These unique patterns determine which compounds are present, and thus identify the chemical substance tested. This test is also used in conjunction with GC. This combination is termed GC/IR. 

INTERPRETING THE RESULTS

After testing has revealed the presence and concentration of a chemical substance, the hard part begins. The toxicologist must now assess what the results mean. He evaluates each of the drugs present with an eye toward the route the drug was administered and whether the concentrations played a role in the subject’s behavior or death.

Route of Entry 

The route of entry of the toxin is very important since it might provide a clue as to whether the victim self-administered the drug or someone else administered the drug. For example, if a drug was injected and the victim possessed no means to do so or if the injection site was in an area that made self-administration unlikely, homicide might be a stronger consideration. 

Another important fact is that the concentration of the toxin is usually greatest at the administration site. Ingested toxins are more likely to be found in the stomach, intestines, or liver, while inhaled gases will be concentrated in the lungs. If injected, the drug can often be isolated from the tissues around the injection site. Drugs taken intravenously bypass the stomach and liver, directly enter the bloodstream, and are quickly distributed throughout the body. In this circumstance, the toxicologist may find high concentrations of the drug in the blood and in multiple tissues of the body, but little or none in the stomach and liver as would be seen with ingestion. This will help him determine the route of intake. 

Drug Blood Level 

Earlier we discussed the concept of bioavailability and how the level of a drug in the blood closely correlates with the drug’s actions and toxicity. This means that finding a large amount of a toxin in the victim’s stomach does not necessarily mean that the drug was the cause of death. The important fact is that drugs in the stomach will not kill. They must first be absorbed into the blood and distributed to the body. 

For example, if the toxicologist found a large amount of a tranquilizers in a victim’s stomach, particularly if most of the pills were intact and had not been digested, and also found a low blood concentration of the drug, he would likely conclude that the pills were taken shortly before death and played little or no role in the victim’s demise. 

There are exceptions. In cases of caustic acid and alkali (lye or caustic soda) ingestion, the blood levels are not important since these chemicals cause direct contact damage and do not need to be absorbed into the body to do harm (discussed later in this chapter). 

Still, in most situations, blood levels are important because they correlate more strongly with the effects of the chemical in question. When the toxicologist determines a blood level of a certain chemical, he might assign it to one of four broad categories: 

NORMAL: This would be the level expected in the general population under normal circumstances. An example would be low levels of cyanide. Even though this is a deadly poison, it is found in the environment, and therefore most people have low normal levels of cyanide in their blood. Smokers have even higher levels, but this would still be considered normal. 

THERAPEUTIC: This is the level that your doctor strives for. If he gives you an antibiotic or a medication for high blood pressure, he wants to accomplish a blood level of the drug that will bring about a therapeutic effect. Patients with certain cardiac problems may be placed on digitalis. The doctor will periodically draw a blood test to check the therapeutic level of the drug. The reason he does this is that too little will offer less benefit to the patient and too much can cause severe problems since digitalis is potentially a deadly poison. 

TOXIC: A toxic level is one that may cause harm or death. When a prescribed drug passes the therapeutic level and reaches the toxic level it has moved from being a medication to being a poison. Using the example of digitalis, a toxic level might lead to nausea, vomiting, and a yellowish tinge to the person’s vision. Or it may cause a deadly change in the rhythm of the heart. These would be toxic effects. 

LETHAL: This is the level at which the drug in question would consistently cause death. In toxicology we use the term LD50 to measure a chemical’s lethal potential. The LD50 of a drug is the blood concentration at which 50 percent of people would die. 

From this, you might assume that the toxicologist simply has to determine the blood level of any toxin and then he can determine if the level was toxic or lethal. Though that may seem logical, it is far from the truth. 

Each person reacts to chemicals and toxins differently. Much of this variance can be related to age, sex, body size and weight, genetics, and nutritional and health status. An individual who is young, robust, and healthy should tolerate more of a given drug than would someone who was old, thin, and sickly. And in general, that is true. As mentioned earlier, a person’s habits also affect how he will react. The toxicologist must consider these facts when assessing whether a given level of a drug is toxic or lethal, or whether it contributed to the subject’s behavior or death. 

Acute vs. Chronic Poisoning 

At times the toxicologist is asked to determine whether a poisoning is acute or chronic. A good example is arsenic, which can kill if given in a single large dose or if given in repeated smaller doses over weeks or months. In either case, the blood level could be high. But the determination of whether the poisoning was acute or chronic may be extremely important. If acute, the suspect list may belong. If chronic, the suspect list would include only those who had long-term contact with the victim, such as a family member, a caretaker, or a family cook. 

So, how does the toxicologist make this determination? 

In acute arsenic poisoning, the ME would expect to find high levels of arsenic in the stomach and the blood, as well as evidence of corrosion and bleeding in the stomach and intestines, as these are commonly seen in acute arsenic ingestion. If he found little or no arsenic in the stomach and no evidence of acute injury in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but high arsenic levels in the blood and tissues, he might suspect that the poisoning was chronic in nature. Here, an analysis of the victim’s hair can be invaluable. 

Hair analysis for arsenic (and several other toxins) can reveal exposure to arsenic and also give a timeline of the exposure. The reason this is possible is that arsenic is deposited in the cells of the hair follicles in proportion to the blood level of the arsenic at the time the cell was produced. 

In hair growth, the cells of the hair’s follicle undergo change, lose their nuclei, and are incorporated into the growing hair shaft. New follicular cells are produced to replace them and this cycle continues throughout life. Follicular cells produced while the blood levels of arsenic are high contain the poison, and as they are incorporated into the hair shaft the arsenic is, too. On the other hand, any follicular cells that appeared while the arsenic levels were low contain little or no arsenic. 

In general, hair grows about a half-inch per month. This means that the toxicologist can cut the hair into short segments, measure the arsenic level in each, and reveal a timeline for arsenic exposure in the victim. 

Let’s suppose that a wife, who prepares all the family meals, slowly poisoned her husband with arsenic. She began by adding small amounts of the poison to his food in February and continued until his death in July. In May he was hospitalized with gastrointestinal complaints such as nausea, vomiting, and weight loss (all symptoms of arsenic poisoning). No diagnosis was made, but since he was doing better after ten days in the hospital, he was sent home. Such a circumstance is not unusual since these types of gastrointestinal symptoms are common and arsenic poisoning is rare. Physicians rarely think of it and test for it. After returning home, the unfortunate husband once again fell ill and finally died. 

As part of the autopsy procedure, the toxicologist might test the victim’s hair for toxins, and if he did, he would find the arsenic. He could then section and test the hair to determine the arsenic level essentially month by month. If the victim’s hair was three inches long, the half-inch closest to the scalp would represent July, the next half inch June, the next May, and so on until the last half inch would reflect his exposure to arsenic in February, the month his poisoning began. Arsenic levels are ex-
pressed in parts per million (ppm).

The toxicologist would look at this timeline of exposure and likely determine that the exposure occurred in the victim’s home. The police would then have a few questions for the wife and would likely obtain a search warrant to look for arsenic within the home. 

To dig deeper into this subject grab a copy of either 

FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/forensics-for-dummies.html

or 

HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/howdunnit-forensics.html

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2020 in Uncategorized

 
 
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